Ottawa Theatre Review: Steel Magnolias by Three Sisters Theatre Company

The latest Three Sisters Theatre Company production is now running at The Gladstone Theatre. Steel Magnolias by Robert Harding is based on a true story of ‘unpredictable and undefinable’ southern women and the strength of both womanhood and their friendship.

The Venue:

The Gladstone Theatre is in the heart of Ottawa’s Little Italy and although in a central locations, does not offer on-site parking, however street parking can be found within a minute or two walk of the theatre. It is a smaller, but very quaint theatre that’s reminiscent of the old-time theatres. It offering 210 raised seats, however the stage is not raised so you are looking down the entire time. The leg room is narrow – any taller viewers may have difficulty getting comfortable.

A free coat check is located right next to the theatre bar, which offers a wide range of beverages and some small snacks. Coffee and tea were available for $3; mixed drinks, wine and local beer for $9; and scotch for $11. You are able to bring your drinks with you into the theatre and even pre-order your drinks for intermission to skip the line.

Now, for the show itself!

Set in the mid 1980’s in small-town Louisiana, the entire play takes place in Truvy Jones’ (Shawna Pasini) beauty salon. We are first introduced to Annelle Dupuy (Paris Healey), a newcomer in town who takes a job at Truvy’s salon. Clairee Belcher (Osa Natalie Fraser) – the former mayor’s widow –arrives at the salon to discuss what is happening around town. Shelby Eatonton (Kaylee Ross) and her mother, M’Lynn (Robin Guy), arrive shortly after to get dolled up for Shelby’s wedding, followed shortly thereafter by their grumpy neighbour, Ousier Boudreaux (Cindy Beaton).

Photo: Jennifer Scrivens, Resonate Photography

Shy Annelle is rapidly introduced into a circle of tight-knit friends, who hilariously exemplify the kind of antagonistic relationship lifelong small-town residents tend to have with one another. The play chronologically follows the six women who are at various stages in life but have one major thing in common: each other.

The props and stage set-up were very well done – it definitely looked like the hair salon I went to as a child – and included a working hair-washing station. I found it incredibly engaging that these ladies were actually wetting hair with the sink and then styling it right on stage during the scenes. This small touch really helped to creative an immersive experience, as though you were just waiting for your turn in the chair and overhearing all the ongoing local gossip.

Photo: Jennifer Scrivens, Resonate Photography

One thing that really took away from the performance was the lighting. It was changed so often to try and create a mood that I found it incredibly distracting – your eyes had to constantly adjust because it was too drastically and too frequently changing.

All six ladies deserve a shout out for the excellent southern accents – I was very impressed with how well and continuous the accents were spoken. Standout performances include Robin Guy as M’Lynn Eatonton. She personified the worried mother looking out for her child, wanting the best for her, and trying to accept that she cannot control her daughter’s actions. Her final speech was incredibly touching and perfectly delivered – not a dry eye in the place!

Photo: Jennifer Scrivens, Resonate Photography

Another standout performance was Cindy Beaton who played the grumpy neighbour, Ouiser Boudreaux, for her excellent physical comedy and timing.

The make-up and hair are also deserving of a round of applause – the bright, bold colours of the eighties, the hairspray, and the curls, all really helped to sell the era Steel Magnolias is set in.

Steel Magnolias is running at The Gladstone Theatre until March 9th. Tickets are still available, so grab them while you still can.

Review by: Chelsea Fowler

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